On November 9, the Allegheny Land Trust and Grow Pittsburgh announced they have partnered to permanently protect the Enright Community Garden in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. The community garden was protected through the Three Rivers Agricultural Land Initiative.
“We are thrilled to partner with Grow Pittsburgh and the community to connect neighbors and address food insecurity concerns at Enright Community Garden,” ALT president and CEO Chris Beichner said. “Part of our vision is to make green space easily accessible and available to everyone, and we believe the TRALI initiative is helping to fulfill that vision.”
“Now that the space is protected, we aren’t just going year-by-year, waiting to see if development pressure is going to trigger a sale of the property,” said Sallyann Kluz, an Enright Community Garden member.
For more than ten years, the garden had been maintained and improved by a committed group of community members and teachers from Kentucky Avenue School in Shadyside with support from Grow Pittsburgh and East Liberty Development, Inc.
“We’ve had the privilege of helping to supply this garden with materials to grow into what it is now,” GP Executive Director Denele Hughson said. “It is both a relief and gift to now be able to promise that all their work will be protected and enjoyed for generations to come.”
Located at 214 South Saint Clair Street, the site was previously an abandoned lot that neighbors hoped to improve.
“When I moved to East Liberty in 2002, the lot was vacant and overgrown. There was a high volume of drug trafficking happening, and it really contributed to the feeling that the end of the street, right up next to Enright Park, was unsafe and neglected,” said Kluz, who is also a neighbor to the garden and was an ELDI board member at the time.
Kluz proposed the idea of the City taking ownership of the lot and eventually transferring the title to ELDI.
Simultaneously, Kim Wynnyckyj – a Whole Foods store manager in East Liberty who had previously worked with ELDI and other community members—approached ELDI about the idea of a community garden as an outreach program of the store.
Whole Foods, a group of neighbors and the nearby KAS came together in 2008 to make the garden a reality. Whole Foods provided the resources, including staff, supplies and funding.
Meanwhile, KAS began offering lessons for their students in the garden in the fall and spring, using produce from the garden in their “Living Lunch” program.
Ever since, Enright Community Garden has served as a gathering place for neighbors as well as students, parents and teachers. Roughly 20 people each year volunteer and maintain beds at the garden.
In the spring and summer, those beds are filled with tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, raspberries and an array of other fruits and vegetables.
“The garden’s history and continuous presence in the neighborhood underscores its value to the community,” said ALT senior director of community conservation & resiliency Alyson Fearon. “In addition, the garden’s adjacency to the rapid redevelopment happening on the former Penn Plaza site in East Liberty raises its priority level in TRALI’s criteria, as the program seeks to protect vibrant-but-threatened gardens.”
Now that the future of the garden is secure, volunteers can dedicate their energy to long-term improvements. Next spring, the gardeners hope to turn the northern corner of the space into a perennial fruit garden with pear trees, blueberry bushes, and a strawberry patch.
“I love how land and place can reflect storytelling and collective memories, and seeing the garden become a part of the long-term fabric of East Liberty is important,” Kluz said.
Allegheny Land Trust has purchased the land from ELDI, and Grow Pittsburgh will continue to support the garden with mentorship and resources.
The Three Rivers Agricultural Land Initiative works to protect existing community gardens and urban farms throughout the Pittsburgh region.